This recipe does not originate with a British source, not at least as far as we can tell. It is, however, handy and irresistible, and each element has a longtime place in the British kitchen. Its use of canned goods will do nothing to endear it to the locavore police, but any reader so inclined may substitute soups from scratch. Four big bowls of soup.
- a can of condensed tomato soup
- a can of pea soup (not condensed, like Progresso)
- 1 cup milk
- 1 lb shelled raw shrimp cut into ½ inch chunks
- 2 oz dark rum
- chopped scallion greens
- Bring the soups and milk to a boil over medium low heat.
- Stir the shrimp into the mix and cook until they just curl tight and turn the palest pink.
- Remove the soup from the heat and stir in the rum.
- Scatter the scallion greens across the surface of the soup for service.
-The original recipe uses 1½ oz rum, stirs cooked shrimp into the soup once it otherwise is done but for the rum and omits the scallion.
-The eccentric recipe appears in an eccentric book, Mme. Bégué’s Recipes of Old New Orleans Creole Cookery by Elizabeth Kettenring Dutrey Bégué in a 2013 update with a foreword by Poppy Tooker, who has supplemented the 1900 text with commentary and made some substitutions, not all of them welcome. Tooker, for instance, specifies vegetable oil or butter for Madame’s lard with a lamentable loss not only of authenticity but also of flavor. Even so, Tooker is not so bad and has made the classic Creole Cookery more accessible to those uninitiated to the peculiarities of the pre-twentieth century Louisiana tradition.
-This “Shrimp Bisque a la Rhum,” as Mme. Bégué called it, appears in a section on cooking with rum, a practice beloved in Creole as well as English kitchens since the eighteenth century. One peculiarity of Creole Cookery is its organization, or lack of much. Neither “Rum Roast Beef” nor “Baked Ham in Rum” appears in the section on the booze, although that may be because Mme. Bégué considered them ‘Louisiana Country Recipes’ rather than Creole per se.
-The soup is even better with Campbell’s “Harvest Orange Tomato Soup.” Ghastly name; good soup.
-Bourbon makes a nice if not British change from the rum; a nineteenth century Creole or British cook might also reach for dryish Sherry or, in North America at any rate, Madeira.
-As to the rum itself, nobody need raid the locked shelf for a rare old bottle. Economical alternatives include Goslings, Meyers, the slightly lighter Old Harbour and, far farther afield but intriguing and also cheap, Old Monk from India, which adds a note of anise. Cruzan Blackstrap is cheapest of all, but although it makes a good rum and tonic with a splash of Angostura, the sweetness offset by the bitters is too pronounced for soup.